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Watford’s right tackle move

Posted by Darren Urban on September 1, 2015 – 12:18 pm

We’ve talked about, in this space, how the depth chart doesn’t necessarily mean much — especially in the preseason. Lorenzo Alexander was listed as a second-teamer last week, and we know how that turned out. But after Bruce Arians said Earl Watford was going to get a chance to start at right tackle Thursday night and Bradley Sowell was moved to left tackle, Watford then showed up as the first-team right tackle on the depth chart. Bobby Massie was second team, and Sowell was moved to backup left tackle (D.J. Humphries remains listed third-team right tackle).

“I’ve tried to put the negative stuff behind me and just be positive the whole way through, to fight my way and seize these opportunities,” Watford said.

Whether Massie might be unavailable for the start of the season — nothing official has been announced about Massie missing games — is beside the point for now. Maybe this is a one-game thing, but even Arians said that battle between Watford — drafted as a guard — and Sowell on the right side has heated up and then, you start wondering about the numbers. How many offensive linemen are the Cardinals going to keep? If you include Massie, there is a case to be made for 10 of those guys. That’s too many, really.

Watford, meanwhile, has kept his head down and continues to insist he just wants to work. There have been no bold proclamations. He knows, in his third year, he’s running out of time to make an impression to stick around. This camp, he has made an impression. He handled Khalil Mack pretty well Sunday. To see him possibly be a Week 1 starter at right tackle would be something of an upset thinking back to the spring — yet a good story.

“Everyone needs a little confident boost once in a while, right?” Watford said. “It was good to go out there and do well and put myself in this position to hopefully start.”

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Keim: Raiders game “a great wake-up call”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2015 – 8:07 am

General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged the obvious from Sunday night: There were a lot of issues offensively.

“It was a great wake-up call,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Of the starting offensive line, Keim said guard Ted Larsen was the only to even have a solid game. But like Bruce Arians, he saw other problems, like Carson Palmer holding the ball too long a couple of times, some poor routes from receivers, and running backs failing to chip in certain situations.

“When you have so many things go wrong at the same time, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Keim said.

— Keim said the potential Bobby Massie suspension is “up in the air” until and if the Cardinals hear something from the league office.

— The battle at center between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein remains ongoing, Keim said. (Shipley did have some issues Sunday night holding off the inside of the Raiders’ line, including ex-Cardinal Dan Williams.)

— Earl Watford played well, Keim said, reinforcing my view that Watford held up pretty good against stud Raiders pass rusher Kahlil Mack.

— Nothing has changed with Mike Iupati, other than he continues to rehab. Personally, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t miss some regular-season time, but we will see.

— Keim acknowledged there probably hasn’t been a preseason game the last two years where he hasn’t been concerned or there had not been some ups and downs. But he also said that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to feel good about. He thought the defense — other than a couple of blown assignments on coverage — played well. And he was happy with the play specifically of linebackers Alex Okafor and Kevin Minter and defensive end Calais Campbell.

— Keim said both running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon “have a chance” to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.

— The 12 roster moves needed to get to 75 should come today. “No reason to waste any time,” Keim said. The Cardinals practice this afternoon.

 


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Raiders aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 30, 2015 – 11:19 pm

There was a lot of talk about needing to watch the video before anyone could say for sure what the biggest problems were for the starting offense Sunday night in Oakland. Bruce Arians insisted there were no pass protection problems, although for whatever reason – whether it was line breakdowns or running backs not helping enough or Carson Palmer holding the ball too long in certain circumstances – it can’t be denied that Palmer was pressured more than anyone would like.

But again, there wasn’t any panic after. There weren’t any major injuries, so in the end, that probably qualifies any preseason game a success. It is true that the starting offense won’t really get a chance to work in a game before the opener. If that side of the ball is worried, nobody showed it afterward in the locker room.

On the flip side, I thought the starting defense held up well. They were put in some tough positions by the offensive struggles, but I thought they were solid, save for that one third-and-16 conversion they allowed.

— Palmer, who had his right knee wrapped with ice in the locker room after the game, took some hits. But it was his own journey outside the pocket that made everyone gasp a bit. It was third-and-9 and Palmer took off up the middle of the field – diving headfirst to make sure he picked up 10 yards and a first down.

“Larry (Fitzgerald) was screaming at me to get down,” Palmer said. “There is no hesitation. You want to get the first down, you want to stay on the field and keep playing. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but it worked out and I got away with it so I got lucky.”

— The second unit offensive line – from right tackle to left tackle, Earl Watford, Anthony Steen, Lyle Sendlein, Jon Halapio and D.J. Humphries – acquitted itself well, I thought. After the way Palmer was harassed, Drew Stanton had some time against the Raiders’ starting defense during his 12-play, 80-yard TD drive.

— Watford, in particular, played well against Khalil Mack. Watford quietly has been pretty solid, and that’s playing through a bad ankle.

— Defensively, Calais Campbell and Alex Okafor were stout against the run, and Kevin Minter made some good plays. Jerraud Powers showed up in coverage.

— I don’t know if Cariel Brooks makes the 53-man roster but making a play like the 81-yard touchdown return tends to help. I think he’s the leader in the clubhouse if the team’s fourth cornerback is already on the roster – I just don’t know if he’s already on the roster.

— Arians said a couple of times that Phillip Sims would come in first in this game because he wanted Logan Thomas to potentially get a two-minute drill. He couldn’t have come up with a better scenario – tie game, 2:18 left on the clock. Thomas came up big, especially after taking a huge hit on his knee at the outset of the drive.

— Speaking of huge hits, tight end Ifeanyi Momah took a big hit too on his catch-and-rumble to set up that game-winning score. It looked worse than it was, Momah said.

“I’m good,” Momah said. “We ran the play a couple times today. The safety kind of cheated over and the middle of the field was wide open and Logan made a good read. I was expecting the safety. I tried to stick my shoulder into him. It was a big hit but I initiated it too. It wasn’t too much of a blindside.”

— Interesting that tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was expected to play, did not. It did not come up when Arians spoke afterward. Chris Johnson said he thinks he’ll play Thursday after skipping Sunday – he could run full speed straight ahead but was having trouble cutting in pre-game warmups.

— It’s a short turnaround. We’re on this plane flying back to Phoenix now, and the Cardinals have practice Monday afternoon to prepare for Thursday’s preseason finale.

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Weaver cut to trim roster to 87

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2015 – 10:47 am

The Cardinals made a roster move Saturday morning, releasing safety Ross Weaver. That Weaver was cut isn’t a surprise, since he was likely going to be in the batch that was included in the first round of cuts early next week as the team gets to 75. What it does mean is that the Cardinals are down to 87 on the roster, meaning they only have to pare 12 from the roster to get to the 75-man limit.

Again, teams don’t have to get to 75 until Tuesday but with a Thursday game and a Monday practice, I expect it to be earlier than that after the Cards play Sunday night.

That short week will make for an interesting couple of days, by the way. The Cards play in Oakland Sunday night and won’t get back to Arizona before midnight, and then have a practice beginning at 1:20 p.m. Monday. Granted, the vets won’t do much since they won’t play much if at all in the preseason finale, but still, it’s a short turnaround.


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Friday before the Raiders/Camp aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2015 – 4:14 pm

It’s a special two-headed blog post, combining a “Friday before” with an “aftermath.” We’ll see if I can get out alive. Seriously, camp is over, and thank goodness for that. I know I have tired of hotel life. Even if we are just a short drive from home, home seems so far away in the middle of the month.

What is there to say about camp? The Cards had their injuries, although beyond losing starting nose tackle Corey Peters to his Achilles tear — which is a big deal, but not crippling given the defensive line depth — the Cards came out OK. We’ll see where Michael Floyd and Mike Iupati and Sean Weatherspoon are in a week as the Cards prep for the Saints on opening day.

Best players in camp? Hard to go anywhere but Carson Palmer. Tyrann Mathieu was very good. I thought Patrick Peterson played well. There has been a lot of praise doled out to inside linebacker Kevin Minter, which is a huge deal given Weatherspoon’s absence. Of course, with still two preseason games to go, there is still some time before the roster is shaped. The Cards — at 88 on the roster right now — have to be down to 75 by Tuesday at the latest (although I expect those cuts sooner) and then to 53 a week from Saturday. All for a season where much is expected of the team.

“For us to reach where we want to go, we can’t be potential,” Bruce Arians said. “We have to be damn good.”

— I have a hunch running back Chris Johnson plays in Oakland. He practiced Friday, but he didn’t do a lot beyond individual drills, mostly running off by himself to keep loose. But Arians said he wants to be on the field, and while Johnson said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready, I just have a gut feeling he’ll get a little time. If not, it’ll be the Denver game.

— Let’s hope the MRI needed for rookie Xavier Williams on his left elbow isn’t a big deal. He got hurt at the end of practice Friday.

— Arians started calling CB Jerraud Powers “Milkman” because he wanted to needle Powers for needing so many days off with his hamstring injury. (Powers was milking the injury — get it?) Then Powers came back to practice Friday and made a couple of interceptions. “The Milkman delivered today.”

— The players aren’t the only ones who likes finally breaking camp to be able to sleep in their own bed. Arians does too.

“My liver likes a break too,” Arians deadpanned.

— Earl Watford will get second-team work at right tackle in Oakland Sunday. How much backup quarterback Drew Stanton will play will depend on how much Carson Palmer ultimately plays. In this game, Phillip Sims will get in the game first as third QB with Logan Thomas finishing up.

— Arians likes the depth that’s been created with the young inside linebackers, but I’d think the spotlight will still be bright on those guys Sunday (although it’ll be brighter in the preseason finale.) I’m interested to see how D.J. Humphries looks at left tackle, how DT Rodney Gunter looks in extended time and whether the Cardinals can put together a couple of sacks with their first-unit defense. Josh Mauro was getting a lot of work as an edge guy in first-unit sub-packages this week.

In a week, the preseason will be over, and it’ll be time to talk regular season. Finally.

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Possible future joint practices — just not in AZ

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 12:57 pm

It’s the homestretch: One more regular practice today, and then an earlier practice Friday (gates open at 9:30 a.m.) before the Cardinals break camp.

Next year, there’s a possibility not all the training camp practices will be at University of Phoenix Stadium, because, as Bruce Arians has mentioned before, he would “love” to hold some joint practices with another team.

“We just don’t have the space here,” Arians said. “We’d have to travel somewhere.”

Arians said the Cardinals talked to “two or three” other teams about joint practices but it didn’t work out. One team Arians floated as one he wouldn’t mind teaming up with? Tennessee, with former coaching cohort (and former Cardinals head coach) Ken Whisenhunt.

— CB Jerraud Powers, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and RB Chris Johnson are all run testing today to test their hamstrings. If all goes well, they will practice Friday and the door isn’t closed on them playing in Oakland.

— Defensive end Ed Stinson is sitting out with a toe injury. Arians doesn’t think it is serious. It is not the same toe that derailed Stinson’s rookie season and eventually landed him on injured reserve.

— Arians acknowledged what had been speculated on frequently, that there is a possibility the Cardinals would only keep two quarterbacks and have a third on the practice squad.

— The punting battle remains even, Arians said. The coach acknowledged Dave Zastudil’s age and injury history have to be considered, and Arians added that he thought Drew Butler did a good job last season except for that terrible playoff outing. “That was really the only game he struggled,” Arians said. However, Arians added, “it’s still the best guy for the job” and these last two games will be factors.

 


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Chris Johnson’s hammy, and where he fits

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2015 – 9:24 am

Bruce Arians suggested Wednesday that running back Chris Johnson could be back practicing by the end of the week, and there is a possibility that Arians will say in a couple of hours that indeed, Johnson is returning today from his sore hamstring. With only two preseason games left — and with Johnson sitting out the entire offseason — there is little time left to prep for games that count. (UPDATE: Arians said Johnson will go through a run test Thursday, and hopefully will practice Friday and play Sunday.)

Johnson acknowledged Wednesday he feels he needs to play in preseason games, to at least get a couple of carries and get a feel for the game. If that ends up being the normally fringe-heavy fourth preseason game, so be it. But, Johnson also said, “I think they know what I can do already.”

That may be true, and I would still lean toward CJ being on this roster heading into the regular season. But it’s not necessarily a lock, with what David Johnson has shown and Kerwynn Williams still lingering in the background and Stepfan Taylor so valuable on special teams. Can’t keep ’em all.

Johnson noted “I’ve never been a guy that really misses games or practices or anything like that,” and that’s true (save for a contract holdout once upon a time.)

“It’s a situation where it’s frustrating watching practice,” Johnson said. “I know I need to be out there practicing. But it has kind of helped me be able to really focus on the playbook and get the playbook down.”

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Niklas must sit again (and #CardsCamp notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 26, 2015 – 1:02 pm

Troy Niklas is sidelined again, done in by the same hamstring that put him out of practice at the beginning of camp. It’s another blow for the young tight end, who flashes what the Cardinals want to see on the field. He’s just never on the field, thanks to a broken thumb/bad ankle/hamstrings over the past year-plus.

“He’s the player we liked,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We just have to keep him healthy.”

Can that happen? Niklas is frustrated and I’d guess the team is frustrated. Arians said he isn’t sure how long this will sideline Niklas, and with Jermaine Gresham hopefully playing this week — but still not a lock — the Cards must still think about where they are at tight end.

— Arians is hopeful the hamstring trio of RB Chris Johnson, ILB Sean Weatherspoon and CB Jerraud Powers will all be back later this week (which is running out of days), but all are sitting Wednesday. OL Earl Watford (ankle) is sitting again too.

— WR Michael Floyd (hand) said he is sticking with his rehab protocol but he expressed optimism he could be back for the regular-season opener. Floyd isn’t catching yet, but said he thinks it will be mental hurdles and not physical hurdles that will be the key. Arians too is hopeful Floyd will return. “I wouldn’t be shocked if he was ready,” Arians said.

— Another sign undrafted rookie nose tackle Xavier Williams is going to make this roster — Arians’ comment Wednesday. “We’d be very, very happy if he was our third- or fourth-round draft choice right now.”

— Arians said he is “anxious” to see OLB Shaq Riddick on the field after missing, well, basically almost every practice since he was drafted. It’s Riddick’s potential speed off the edge that has the Cardinals wanting more. Might be hard to get him through to the practice squad — which is another thing to keep in mind with the final 53-man roster.

— Both Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims are expected to play Sunday (and the whole game in Denver, likely). That third QB battle will go through the Denver game, Arians added. Sims may come in before Thomas this week, however, because Arians wants Thomas to get a chance at a two-minute drill.

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Spoon’s absence, and Buc as LB

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2015 – 3:06 pm

Sean Weatherspoon’s extended absence has been, in Bruce Arians’ words, “discouraging.” Certainly Weatherspoon’s spot in this defense feels like a question mark (although if he gets back on the field in the next week, I’m not sure we’ll even think about it anymore.) With Weatherspoon still out, not much has been figured out in terms of the inside linebacker position.

Or maybe it has.

Look, there has never been any doubt of the depth the Cardinals have at safety, or the fact both Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher have said multiple times they will put the best 11 on the field. Or the fact Arians earlier in camp called safety Deone Bucannon the lone “inside linebacker” he can see on the field all three downs (with Weatherspoon on the shelf, of course.)

Bucannon would like to play safety. But he is smart enough — and team-oriented enough — that he’ll play wherever. He reiterated that again Monday. As long as Rashad Johnson (who, it can be noted is in the last year of his contract) and Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu are around, and as long as Bucannon probably is better suited in the box rather than running around to cover a lot of guys, linebacker is his spot. To be out there a lot could be a concern given his weight (he is listed at 211) but I know there are many out there who suggested Bucannon may be better suited at linebacker.

Things change from year to year. If Johnson isn’t here in 2016, if the Cards get Weatherspoon to click and stay beyond this season, if an athletic inside linebacker is drafted, maybe this all changes. But even if Weatherspoon gets back to where the Cardinals want him to be, I’m guessing Bucannon will be next to him, in front of the secondary, much of the time.

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Riddick return, OL moves and similar butts

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 2:24 pm

It was a long presser from Bruce Arians today after no morning walkthrough. Here are some of the highlights before I head down to practice:

— The injury list right now includes cornerback Jerraud Powers, who is now dealing with a hamstring issue of his own and will be “shut down” for a few days. Arians did not sound concerned. Good news, though, running back Chris Johnson is actually better than Arians originally thought with his hamstring and is day to day. Arians said Saturday he thought Johnson would missed a week or two. OL Earl Watford had a shot in his troublesome ankle and gets a rest day (the Cards are off Tuesday too), and will be back Wednesday, as will TE Jermaine Gresham (back) and WR Brittan Golden (sore after taking a big hit Saturday.)

— OLB Shaq Riddick is finally back at practice. So is CB Jonte Green and T Rob Crisp.

— Arians said it was “discouraging” ILB Sean Weatherspoon is still out with his bad hamstring. There is a hope he’ll return to practice this week, but we’ll see.

— The coaches have talked as a staff about playing the starters less Sunday in Oakland in light of all the injuries around the NFL. Arians said each guy will be gauged differently, based on practice and the need for reps.

— When Watford comes back, he’ll work at right tackle and have the chance to battle Bradley Sowell for the starting job. D.J. Humphries will spend the week at left tackle to get some work there; Arians wants him to be able to play both sides as a backup — which he will be to start the season almost assuredly.

— Arians praised Alani Fua and, to a lesser extent, Gabe Martin, at inside linebacker. Arians intrigued by Fua’s length.

— After video watching, Arians still said there is no leader at third QB between Sims and Thomas.

— Although Mike Leach already took the blame on Twitter, Arians reiterated it was Leach snapping the ball too soon to holder Dave Zastudil that caused the botched PAT in the game. “A 25-year-vet, whatever he is, snapping to a 30-year vet, and one wasn’t looking,” Arians said. “You would not anticpate that happening out of thise two guys, but it did happen.”

— Arians liked the game starting left guard Ted Larsen had a lot, but “he blew it with one dumb penalty,” Arians lamented of Larsen’s 15-yarder for jumping on a pile. Still, he said he liked Larsen’s game, and that of Jonathan Cooper’s too.

— The starting center job between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein is “heavily contested.” Arians added that Carson Palmer gets no say in the matter. “Their butts are about the same,” Arians quipped.

 


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